Boats moored in the San Francisco Marina

Exploring Flexible Fishing Permits as a Support Tool for Climate Change Adaptation

Supporting research to understand if flexible fishing permits can help fishing communities “weather the storm” of unexpected climate-driven impacts

Emerging from a 2019 OST-convened workshop to explore new approaches to fisheries management and access in the face of climate change, OST is partnering with researchers at UC Davis to explore the potential for flexible fishing permits to meet California’s climate & fishing community policy goals and be more responsive to unexpected climate-driven changes while maintaining ecosystem stewardship.

A Need for a Proactive Fisheries Management Tool

Recent extreme events caused by a confluence of multiple stressors, including climate-driven ocean changes, are revealing vulnerabilities in marine ecosystems and fishing communities on the West Coast. Traditional mechanisms for managers to respond to these devastating events are often reactive and delayed. Therefore, as these extreme events become more frequent or severe, there is growing interest in developing new proactive ways for fisheries and reliant communities to deal with the unpredictable impacts of climate change.

“Flexible fishing permits” – i.e. fishing permits that are in some way less restrictive, typically on geographic, species, or effort-based dimensions – have been considered as a potential tool to address the dual challenges of high uncertainty and management speed that climate change presents. Theoretically, such permits could allow local fishing efforts to nimbly adapt to unanticipated changes and emergency closures in real time, in turn keeping fishing-dependent industries and communities from experiencing catastrophic disruptions.

To date, however, factors and specific designs that might make such a tool appropriate to meet the needs of climate-ready management remain unexplored in a real-world context. If such a mechanism were to play a role in the climate adaptability of California’s fisheries, a critical first step is to develop and understand how different permit design options could potentially confer resilience and help ameliorate the impacts of emergency closures or unanticipated shifts in species distributions while maintaining sustainable fisheries.

A Scientific Approach to Management Design Options

OST is partnering with Dr. James Sanchirico and Dr. Matthew Reimer at UC Davis to facilitate research that will help California decision makers better understand which elements of a flexible fishing permit system could maximize climate resilience. Fishery and permit characteristics will be mapped to climate shocks in order to understand how advantages and disadvantages change based on which climate stressor is faced. The results will be used to assemble guidance on the kind of flexible permit system a type of fishery might select given likely climate impacts.

To ensure the research is grounded in the California fisheries management context and potential California specific climate change scenarios, OST will support the research team in actively seeking guidance from managers and stakeholders throughout the full project. OST will engage California fishing community stakeholders and coordinate with state decision makers at the outset and throughout the project to calibrate the scientific outputs so that they are realistic and salient to the specific needs and conditions fishing communities face.

Team Members

Dr. James Sanchirico, UC Davis
Dr. Matthew Reimer, UC Davis
Junjun Dong, UC Davis
Kate Thompson, UC Davis

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